Many novice musicians don’t realize the athleticism required to play an instrument. Although well-practiced musicians aren’t going to get big biceps and a six pack simply from playing their instrument, their fine motor movements are highly tuned and incredibly agile. While you or your child is taking violin lessons in Houston, you may find moving your fingers in just the right manner to be quite the challenge! Here is a list of five exercises to improve finger strength, finger independence, and speed.
Left hand pizzicato exercise
Houston Violin Teachers teach Pizzicato, which is when the strings on the violin are plucked instead of bowed. Plucking the strings with the left hand is a great introduction to the instrument and builds finger strength. With the violin on your shoulder, place your left hand so that it is resting against the shoulder of your instrument and pluck each string starting with you pinky.
Resting your hand against the shoulder will promote proper positioning of the wrist and arm. When plucking the strings, try to create a round, ringing sound while only touching one string at a time. Create your own songs while plucking just the open strings! This exercise is to be used mostly with the third and fourth fingers as they tend to be the weakest and are at the best angle for pizzicato.
Finger tapping exercise to improve violin play
This is another exercise that should be executed without the bow and can be used with any piece of music. Tap your fingers on the fingerboard so that the pitch of each finger can be heard. Try to avoid tapping your fingers so hard that they make a loud thud. The key to agile fingers is pressing them down just enough that the string makes full contact with the fingerboard. Any harder is a waste of precious energy and can lead to unwanted tension.
Finding the right amount of finger pressure will create a beautiful left hand tone and improve your overall sound quality. If you don’t have your instrument with you, you can still practice tapping your fingers on any flat surface like a desk or table.
How Ghost fingers help improve violin play
To improve finger independence, place your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd finger on the string so that they are lightly sitting on top without pressing the string all the way down. Now try to press your 1st finger all the way down without moving your other fingers. You might be amazed how much your fingers don’t want to move on their own!
Once you’ve mastered moving just your 1st finger, try the same exercise moving only your 2nd and 3rd finger. Then try moving each finger independently with all four fingers resting gently on the string. If you feel your hand is getting tight, promptly release all of your fingers and reset them in order to avoid building tension in the hand.
Trills help improve violin play, too!
Trills are musical ornaments in which two notes (usually right next to each other) alternate back and forth is rapid succession. To build speed and consistently timed finger dropping, start slowly playing quarter notes switching back and forth between your 1st and 2nd finger. It’s important to note that with any trill, the lower finger remains down while playing the upper note.
Once quarter notes are comfortable, switch to eighth notes so that your 2nd finger is now moving twice as fast. Then move to triplets and sixteenth notes, continuing to drop your finger evenly and firmly. Finally, boost the speed to a free, fluttering trill. As you increase finger velocity, make sure your hand is not getting tight and continue to move your top finger from the base knuckle in order to execute a fluid, clear trill. Practice this same rhythmic progression with your 2nd and 3rd finger, 3rd and 4th, etc.
Sevcik – Opus 1, Part 1
This etude book is full of exercises written specifically for building strength, speed, and finger independence. It includes 29 exercises that cover just about every finger pattern imaginable on each string in first position. Because there is no shifting involved, this is a fantastic resource for beginners and professionals alike. Every measure offers a different finger pattern and is meant to be practiced slowly and repeated until executed effortlessly.
As your finger movements improve, variations can be made by altering the speed, bowing, and rhythm to target different techniques. This book will become a staple of your practice routine as the variations are endless and covers almost every level of difficulty. Getting this etude book can be one of the things a parent can do to prepare their child for success with the violin.
Finger strength and dexterity will always be a consideration when playing the violin at any level of expertise, violin lessons can help you improve your skills further. At Lessons In Your Home, our instructors are thoroughly vetted, professional, and passionate about music. Our teachers will come right to your home for every lesson, plus we offer virtual music lessons, too. Our online music lessons are being taught by local music teachers with live lessons tailored to your child! Contact us today to learn more.
By Tracy Gibler